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Sometimes you have to go a long way to come back a short distance

Abdullah Al Saadi


Co-published with Sharjah Art Foundation

With contributions from:

Hoor Al Qasimi, Ahmad Makia (eds.)
Meitha Al Mazrooei, Ahmed Rashid Thani

خرج ولم يعد / Sometimes You Have To Go a Long Way to Come Back A Short Distance is a monograph on the pioneering conceptual artist Abdullah Al Saadi, whose prolific body of work encompasses painting, drawing, scrollwork, found-object sculpture, performance, land art, assemblages and installations. This volume celebrates movement and travel as creative methodologies, ritual practices and a way of life for Al Saadi, tracing the reciprocal imprint of the artist on the landscape and the landscape on the artist.

From his seasonal migrations and treks through the mountains of the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula to excursions as far afield as Brazil, Japan and Antarctica, the book tracks Al Saadi’s peripatetic impulse across a range of overlapping contexts, time-space constellations and bodies of work. Alongside previously unpublished extracts from his sketch books, artist books, daily journals, travel diaries and personal archives, it presents critical and scholarly reflections on his work as well as an interview with the artist and a translated essay about his practice.

Positioning Al Saadi as a non-canonical, outsider artist of singular importance, this monograph explores the parallels between his practice and intergenerational rock and boulder art from the Arabian Peninsula. The result of Al Saadi’s unique relationship to Sharjah and longstanding collaboration with the Sharjah Art Foundation, it reflects on the affinities between his artistic approach and intergenerational wisdom as well as land-based practices of the region.




About the Artist

Abdullah Al Saadi

Born in Khor Fakkan, UAE, 1967. Working in drawing, photography, artist’s diaries, and found objects, Abdullah Al Saadi has exhibited both in the UAE and internationally. In 2014, Sharjah Art Foundation presented his solo exhibition Al-Toubay. He has participated in many other shows, including Emirati Expressions, Abu Dhabi (2013); Art of Body and Performance in the Gulf Region, an exhibit of 16 artists, at New York University, Abu Dhabi (2013); the 10th Sharjah Biennial (2011); the UAE Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009); Languages from the Desert at Kunstmuseum Bonn (2005); the 26th São Paulo Biennial (2004); the 6th Sharjah Biennial (2003); and Five Artists from the UAE, Ludwig Forum for International Art (2002). He received a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, in 1993, and studied Japanese art at Kyoto Seika University from 1994 to 1996.

About the Authors

Hoor Al Qasimi

Hoor Al Qasimi is President and Director of Sharjah Art Foundation, an independent public arts organisation which she established in 2009 as a catalyst and advocate for the arts, not only in Sharjah but also in the region and around the world. She has curated major exhibitions for the Foundation and other international institutions, including the critically acclaimed Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present (2023). In addition to her role at the Foundation, Al Qasimi also serves as President of the International Biennial Association, President of The Africa Institute and President and Director of the Sharjah Architecture Triennial.

Ahmad Makia

Ahmad Makia is a geographer, author and editor. His work spans the fields of spatial studies and human geography, gender and identity, Arab and Islamic history and material philosophy. He is founder and creative director of HYPERHOUSE, a boutique pub- lisher and editorial practice; Head of Publications at Sharjah Art Foundation, a contemporary arts organisation; and Architecture and Design Editor at Kaph Books. He has published essays in ac- ademic journals, magazines, artist books, zines and online. Makia was also founding editor and contributor to the publishing projects THE STATE, ZIGG and Dubailand.

Meitha Almazrooei

Meitha Al Mazrooei is the editor of WTD Magazine. She completed her M.S. in Critical, Curatorial & Conceptual Practices in Architecture at Columbia University’s GSAPP. She is currently pursuing her PhD in History Theory and Criticism of Architecture at MIT.

Ahmed Rashid Thani

Ahmed Rashid Thani (1962–2012) was part of the generation of thinkers who shaped the UAE’s New Arts Movement. Venerated as the UAE’s Father of Existentialism, he is especially known for pioneering modernism and publishing his poems in vernacular Emirati Arabic. Originally from Khor Fakkan and later residing in Abu Dhabi, Thani published numerous plays, poems, treatises, travelogues and short stories, as well as many essays in local newspapers.

Technical Details

Publication Date:
Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Number of Pages:
Kaph Books